Weekly Photo Challenge: Sometimes You Just Gotta Smile!

In this week’s photo challenge I couldn’t help but post a collection of signs from the Land of the Not Quite Right. The challenge is really called, The Sign Says, but sometimes you just gotta smile at the goofy signs.

On the ferry I noticed this sign. Now, I just have to find a child older than five.
IMG_0591A new recycling method?
IMG_1767Well, this helps for those who lack Spanish and need to find the bathroom…quickly!
IMG_4563You want me to camp where???
IMG_1717Does this mean I can’t get my hair cut?
IMG_4777Could it be that the pizza wasn’t delivered hot?
IMG_0278Watch out for those swindlers!
IMG_5485And what do I do all the time in the “Land of the Not Quite Right?


Timeout for Art: Waiting for Mangoes

This week’s Timeout for Art challenge is brought to you by Zeebra Designs and Destinations.  Lisa, I anxiously await your challenge every Thursday. Thank you for the inspiration. I think my waiting for mangoes has come to an end.

Princesa and I share mangoes every morning over the barbed wire fence. She bellows…I respond. She slobbers, then bellows for more. Sometimes she lets me pet her while she’s munching on mangoes.


While drawing today’s challenge, I was in a contemplative mood, thinking about the cattle and other animals barely surviving on Ometepe Island at the beginning of the rainy season. For six dry months we all endure the heat, dust, and brittle grass. Then…mango season arrives..glorious juicy mangoes enrich all of our lives once again. They nourish our bodies and our souls giving us hope for a prosperous harvest. Princesa and I are both happy….the wait for mangoes has ended.

The Luxury of a Library

“What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.” ― Harold Howe

I have great memories of our public and school libraries in the states. The smells of ink, musty paper, and glue conjure up nostalgic memories of sticking my nose in a book and virtually traveling to distant places through the miracle of words in print. Yet, I can’t explain the feeling I get when entering a library to any of our local islanders, simply because they have never experienced a library..the smells…the hushed whispers…snuggling in a bean bag chair… curling up with a good book. Those concepts are alien. They have no understanding of reading for pleasure because it is not a cultural pastime.

This morning, Ron and I delivered 100 books to a new-to-me school. Follow us on our trip, because we were pleasantly surprised at what we discovered.

On my walk to the bus stop, I was enthralled with the brilliant display of orange flowers on the malinche tree. The locals comically refer to the malinche tree as the matrimonial tree, because the vibrant flowers appear first, then they quickly fall off and the tree becomes a tangle of vines.

I met Ron at the bus stop near the new airport. Soon, I’ll have to figure out a way to transport my books more efficiently. Ron straps them on our motorcycle, and I follow him on the bus.

Two trabajadores were filling in a drainage ditch near the airport. “Take our photo,” they shouted.
IMG_2845“When will the new airport open for business?” I asked. “Mañana,” they replied in unison. Alrighty then, I thought, maybe in six more months.
IMG_2847The bus never came, so I flagged down a moto taxi…my favorite form of transportation on the island.
IMG_2849When we entered the school, the director told us to deliver my books to…THE LIBRARY!!! The first school I’ve seen on the island that has the luxury of a library.
Santiago, who attended this school from preschool through high school helped me translate to the LIBRARIAN. Santiago doesn’t speak any English, but he understands my Spanglish well. When the librarian had a question, she would direct the question to Santiago, and he would repeat it a little louder and a little slower to me in Spanish. Then, I would respond to Santiago, and he would fix all my verb errors. We work well together.
IMG_2851I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the librarian lived in La Paloma and I knew her son. We bonded instantly. She showed me around the library. It was decorated with lots of posters and cut-out hearts for Mother’s Day, which is celebrated on May 30th. Although the library lacks children’s books, which the kids can read for pleasure, it is well stocked with teacher’s materials and classroom textbooks. I have high hopes for this school because the school thinks highly of its library…a measure of what it feels about education.
IMG_2852We toured a first grade classroom. Aren’t they adorable? I offered to return to read to this class and do a fun book activity with them.
IMG_2854Then on to visit their outdoor classrooms. A perfect setting for a hot morning!
IMG_2855Bikes were haphazardly scattered…and what is this??? Looks like the teacher needs to keep an eye on the kid holding a desk over his head.
IMG_2856We left with a sense of community and a warm fuzzy feeling for the school that has the luxury of a library. Now, where did we park the motorcycle among the sea of bikes?
IMG_2857Thanks for the memories, Esquipulas Los Angeles School. There’s nothing like the smell of a library. I think I’ll look for some bean bags for the library. The kids would love them.
IMG_2859Many thanks to all the wonderful readers and network of librarians and teachers who have donated books to my mobile lending library. I can assure you, they are in loving hands. It is because of your love of reading that this is possible. I’m spreading the love one hundred books at a time throughout the elementary schools on the island.

Foreign Philanthropy

Inspired by Jefferson’s philosophy and practice as a Weekend Philanthropist and because we got paid for our gig on a TV show (well, not yet…but soon),  I decided to dabble in a little foreign philanthropy myself.

Although philanthropy isn’t foreign to me, the sense of caring for, nourishing, and enhancing a love of humanity, is fading quickly in our troubled world. Read some comments on a Yahoo article or Facebook and I’m sure you’ll agree. But, what exactly is philanthropy and how does it differ from charity?

When I was a working woman, I used to give to charities, mainly because I had more disposable income and less time. But, I found charities to be impersonal. Charities relieve the pains of social problems, such as food, clothing, etc. for natural disasters and other societal pains, but it is temporary relief. On the other hand, philanthropy attempts to get to the root of the problem. I like the thought of getting up close and personal to a problem and trying to solve it from the inside out.

I’ve heard people describe the differences between charity and philanthropy as: charity gives a man a fish and philanthropy teaches a man to fish. Or charity=giving and philanthropy=doing. Either way, charity’s Latin roots and philanthropy’s Greek roots are both based on meanings of loving kindness and generosity. Both are admirable and make a difference in our troubled world. Yet, I lean towards philanthropy because; I have less disposable income and more time, and philanthropy addresses the root causes of why people are vulnerable in the first place.

Although there is a blurred line in the distinctions between charity and philanthropy, the important thing is to do something, right? So in the interest of doing something, I’d like to share with you some of the organizations and people, to which I am paying forward loving kindness and generosity.

1. Johnson Cruz Races for Funds
I have written several posts about Johnson, and I will continue to support him in his quest of becoming a Nicaraguan Olympian.

2. El Carizo Sustainability Project
A friend of mine is empowering a small community in Nicaragua to break the cycle of poverty through organic agriculture, environmental protection, education, and intercultural exchange.

3. OutMore Adventures
My son and his business partners created cultural tourism programs for the indigenous community of Los Ramos, which I will always support. In fact, the TV show filmed them, which was lots of fun. We made nacatamales in their cultural cooking class and filmed the process. The TV crew gorged themselves on the delicious nacatamales. 🙂

Of course, I have more books to buy for my mobile lending library, my neighbor needs running shoes so he can compete in local races, and I’d sure like to help our local hospital with donations of latex gloves (I’m going to stock up on boxes of latex gloves when I go back to the states).

I’ve only begun on my philanthropic journey….with miles to go before I sleep. Yet, when I do sleep…it’s with peaceful, loving thoughts and dreams of what I can do tomorrow.

Weekly Photo Challenge: In the Background

This week’s photo challenge is to take a picture of yourself as a shadow, a reflection, or a lesser part of the scene, making the background the foreground, the center of attention.

     I’ve learned that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become” ~James Rhinehar
IMG_20130509_082857Two weeks ago, a film crew came from the USA to film us for a popular TV show. Although it looks like we were the center of attention…we really weren’t! The focus was on the background: the many talented local people, our background story of searching for a place where we could be totally immersed in a local culture, the spirit of paying forward the many blessings we have received, and daily life on our oasis of peace. Our backgrounds influenced who we are, but cultural immersion changed who we have become.



Johnson Cruz Races for Funds

If you haven’t read my post about Johnson Cruz, please read it here. Johnson: A Nicaraguan Giver.

With your help, Johnson, an endurance athlete and ultramarathon champion, will have a chance to make a name for himself training and competing among the most élite athletes in the USA.

Johnson and Pac with their chickens at the start of the Fuego y Agua Survivor Run.

chickens at starting line copyPlease consider donating to this incredible young man.

Johnson Cruz Races for Funds

Thank you for your support. I am so proud of Johnson and his remarkable talents. With your help we can make his dreams come true.

Cultural Pizza

One of my favorite bloggers, Zebra Designs and Destinations, has inspired me to sharpen my pencil and sketch again. Like writing, painting and sketching has always been therapeutic for me. It transports me into another world…contemplative…observant…

I lost myself in my drawing I call Cultural Pizza, for in sketching the Pre-Columbian pottery shards I found on my daily beach walks, I lost my ability to talk and time lost all meaning. My perceptions of life turned inward looking at edges, spaces, relationships, lights and shadows, and gestalt (or perceptions of the whole).

Learning to perceive things differently through drawing, is a deeply moving experience for me. It’s all about the feeling that I get..redirecting my focus..seeing life more fully. Of course, I’d like to improve my drawing skills, too.  I have a long way to go, but with practice and 30 minutes of drawing a day, I know I can enrich my life in wondrous ways.

Thank you so much Lisa, for the inspiration and your challenge of Timeout for Art.


Cultural pizza

Taking the Cultural Plunge

cookin class copy 2I started my blog to explain my passion for cultural immersion and to increase cultural sensitivity. As a teacher, I taught my students how to look beyond cultural borders enabling them to create authentic and effective relationships across cultural divides. In our rapidly transforming world, the skills needed to be compassionate citizens and knowledgeable leaders extend beyond imaginary borders. I want to affect a change, develop a sense of cultural competency, and open windows to the world. Simply, I want to share our experiences in looking at the world with eyes without borders.

I teach by modeling. We took the cultural plunge, but it hasn’t been without its pitfalls. Language, socioeconomic status, gender roles, and cultural norms sometimes temporarily halt us in our quest for understanding, but we keep plunging deeper to find solutions to problems we encounter with cultural differences.

The tools I use to affect and change cultural attitudes are compromise, modeling, focusing on our similarities, and most of all…finding humor in daily challenges. Sometimes, I feel like I’m trying to balance on a slack line (Cory’s latest fun activity). I wobble a lot trying to keep  my balance, and sometimes I fall off. But, I get right back up and try it again…and again…and again. All I need are a few reassuring and helping hands. That’s life, right?

I’ve learned not to compromise my values, though.  For example, when a producer for a popular TV show contacted me through my blog, I said that maybe we weren’t the right people for the show because, although I love the show, they place an emphasis on granite counter tops, crown moulding, coffee on the veranda overlooking the beach, and gated communities. We only agreed to the production if the film crew would spotlight the talented local people and we could be shown culturally immersed in our community. We wanted to give hope to the many retirees searching for an affordable place to retire abroad, while living on a small fixed income.  I think it’s going to be a ground breaker and I’m thrilled that we could be a part of the new wave of cultural immersion.

I’d like to offer my readers a challenge. Are you willing to take the cultural plunge? I’d like to start a monthly cultural plunge challenge.  My goals are to:

1. Challenge one to have direct contact with people who are culturally different from oneself in a real life setting.
2. Gain insights into characteristics and circumstances of a culturally different group
3. To experience what it is like to be very different from most of the people one is around
4. To gain insight into one’s values, cultural biases, and how they affect attitudes
5. To offer ways to affect change for cultural competency

It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I’m sure if you are up for a challenge..it will be an eye opener to the possibilities of living in a world without borders. Stay tuned for more details on taking the cultural plunge.


My Expat Interview

This was a lot of fun to write. Hope you enjoy my interview with BlogExpat.com. You can also click on the logo at the bottom of my home page.
From the USA to Nicaragua

Stay tuned for a post on our wild and crazy experience of being filmed for a popular TV show in the states.

Pedophile Perch Takes a Powder?

In Granada in 2005, there was a local bar nicknamed Pedophile Perch. The porch overlooked a main street, and everyone knew that this was the place where the foreign pedophiles hung out. Since then, many things have changed in Nicaragua. Pedophile Perch still exists, a little less obtrusive, and now, on a side street, but most expats know where it is located. Yet, with the arrest and deportation last month of Eric Toth, a former 3rd grade teacher in a private school in Washington D.C., my hopes are that Pedophile Perch will take a powder.
Eric Justin Toth Caught in Nicaragua

I’m proud of Nicaragua for taking a stand against foreign sex predators. Eric Toth was on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted list for two years, before a tourist recognized him in Esteli, Nicaragua. What I’m not so proud of are the comments of some expats and foreign tourists defending sex trafficking and blaming the locals for their circumstances.

In 2005, I wrote a post to a Nicaragua expat forum (big mistake!) about an incident that occurred between an underage Nicaraguan boy and an older gringo man. Instead of creating an awareness of the increasing problems in Nicaragua with foreign sex predators, the discussion ( if you can even call it a discussion) led to pointless posts with statistics thrown around like fast balls. The gist of the garbage slung on the forum was blaming the locals for their cultural silence, their need to prostitute themselves for their families, and personal attacks on me for broaching the topic of foreign sexual predators.
Here are a few jewels from this sparkling conversation:

“In the last few months one takes note of how many more “little boys” have arrived from Managua to make their business…but, generally, these “little boys” are not underage..but it happens…but christ, it happens in the White House every day…gypsy toes…wanna go work the coffee fields at 3 dollars a day..try it. You wouldn’t last one year..you wouldn’t last one week. I shan’t continue…my monthly supply of Guinness came yesterday….”

“I think that you are talking bullshit”

“Get a “frigging” life.”

 ” I’ve been in Nicaragua for 15 years and I don’t want to hear this thing here about child abuse on the “Atlantic Coast”. This thing does not happen here.”

“My wife and I feed hungry children every day. Please keep your stupid opinions to yourself; because you do not know what you are talking about when you post.”

“***** says that “Gypsy Toes” & ***** are probably Catholic and support their pediphile priests and bishops.”

Tim Rogers, of the Nicaragua Dispatch wrote an excellent three-part series on Sex Trafficking in Nicaragua.

1. New Beginnings: chronicle of a serial rapist.

2. Sex predators find easy prey in Nicaragua

3. Nicaragua’s culture of silence

Yet, reading some of the comments posted to his articles, made me wonder why some expats and foreign tourists still continue to defend this horrendous act? Is it denial?

“Adult prostitution is legal here and the women here are definitely not being trafficked although as the article says the ones that work here come here from other cities, and I suspect the girls from here go to other cities when they want to work in the sex trade. I have seen one underaged girl trying to work here and she had no takers.”

“As far as trafficking the women arrive here on buses and play on the beaches and do as they please and go home on the buses when they are want to. They have no handlers and do not even seem professional with few exceptions. They tend to be mothers with children to feed.”

“There is a double standard with the age of consent between the Nica men and us foreigners. Its also true that the Nica guys pay them very little or nothing at all. Its a national sport here and they call it “chavaliando”. Also girls from other cities do flock to SJDS, seeking the Euro/ Yankee dollar and of-course not to be judged in their home towns. Im sure there are some crimes committed involving under aged girls and trafficking but for the most part its locals committing them.”

Denial… a psychological defense mechanism that enables us to lie to ourselves. It’s a normal way of protecting our fragile egos. Yet, when denying reality facilitates the continuation of a harmful situation (i.e. pedophilia, sexual tourism, sex trafficking), it affects our choices and prohibits us from finding solutions.

The comments posted above are good red flags for denial. They send a message that condones these horrendous acts and fools us into believing that sexual predators, prostitution, and pedophilia are accepted norms in Nicaragua. Don’t be fooled into believing that these commentators have control over the situation and we are helpless to affect a change.

We have to change! We have to confront the harsh realities and make an effort to pull our heads out of the holes in which we have been blissfully surrounded. Pay attention to the statements of deniers because they contain very negative recurring themes ( i.e.” for the most part it’s the locals committing them”, “This thing does not happen here.”, or my favorite…”wanna go work in the coffee fields at 3 dollars a day…try it.”)

Keep deniers on your speed dial, especially if you think differently than them. Confront them with reality and question their assumptions. For we must change our attitudes to protect the innocent in Nicaragua and in the world.

As a side note: I’ve been writing this piece for several months…a word at a time. I think I’ve been afraid to post it because I don’t want to sound preachy. But, I am! And, I’m angry, which always fuels my writing rants. I hope I’m not just preaching to the choir. Foreign sexual predators are becoming a huge problem in Nicaragua. Basically, I think it’s all about supply and demand.

Thanks to Third World Orphans for the information about supply and demand.



* Devaluation of the girl child and discriminatory practices.
* Perceived responsibility of women and children to support families.
* Lack of educational, employment and vocational opportunities.
* Fragmentation of families: death of parent/s, husband, increases homeless women and children.
* Economic conditions, especially rural poverty, fueled by economic development policies and the erosion of agricultural sectors.
* Rural to urban migration and the growth of urban industrial centers.
* Move from subsistence to cash based economy and increased consumerism.
* Lack of laws and law enforcement.


* Criminal networks who organize the sex industry and recruit the children.
* Law enforcement /governmental complicity in the sex trade.
* Demands of foreign sex industries creating international trade in girls and women.
* Fear of AIDS, leading customers to demand younger girls.
* Early marriage and child marriage.
* Traditional and cultural practices, including the demand for virgins, the cultural practice of men patronizing prostitutes, inter-generational patterns of girls entering prostitution.
* Employers using the debt-bond (slavery) system, forced labor and child labor.
* Demand of sex tourists, pedophiles and the migrant labor force.
* International promotion of the sex industry through information technology.